ED- For all the future actors that follow The Eerie Digest, we are happy to present Casting Director Helen McCready. Helen we understand that you actually started your career in acting. Please tell us about it.
HM- I started back on the show 21 Jumpstreet as a wrangler and as a featured talent for this show, Booker and a few other Cannell shows, at the time. My love was always the theater, whether in a play or doing improv comedy. I did tons of commercial work back then, too. My break was on a pilot called “Top of the Hill”. We shot 6 episodes? I forget but it didn’t make it thorough pilot season. I was very excited and on a high for about 6 months we when were shooting it! Then it canceled it was back to reality and looking for work.
ED- Tell us about your work and what does it entail.
HM-I’m a casting director and a member with the Casting Society of America. Basically, a producer provides me with a breakdown and I find the talent they want. They can also ask me to do the breakdown and I let them know how many extras, roles etc are in the film — the producer or director always has final say on who is cast. It’s never the casting director’s decision. Also, I file the proper paperwork for SAG when needed. SAG doesn’t approve but I always hope I can Taft-Hartley a few good actors. Everyone deserves a break if they are crazy enough to endure this business. That’s the basics.
HM-The more I worked as an assistant to the CD’s when I was an actor, the more I loved being part of the crew and not in front of the camera. I tend to want more control over my career and that’s one thing actors don’t have when you’re starting out. They can control and be smart how they market themselves but it’s production that decides if they get the role or not. It’s an extremely tough business to break into but I truly believe the ones that don’t give up can absolutely make a living as an actor.
ED- You’ve been the Casting Director for many shows, including ‘The Resolve’ which we have had interviews with several cast members. Please tell us about all these shows and the efforts that you put into them.
HM-For any show or film you spend endless hours going through headshots and resumes selecting talent by the breakdown that has been given to you from the producer…that’s the first step. After you make your selections, you start by scheduling the talent with a time slot. I’m so thankful for the electronic age! It does make my job so much easier not to have to call every single talent – god bless email and websites! It still takes endless hours to put together and coordinate. Then you have to get the talent their sides or copy…run the audition…possibly callbacks and start booking them and doing the paper work. Sounds pretty boring, doesn’t it? But I love it and love the actors. They work extremely hard on their craft and I appreciate it very much when a talent comes in prepared. If you come in unprepared, stay home – please don’t waste my time. Just your looks will not get you the role. You need talent and a brain, as well.
ED- We also understand that you have written and produced several shows of your own. Please give us an insight into these projects.
HM-Well, it hasn’t been several but I have done a few. One short film that I did is called “The Honeymoon Is Over”. I had written and helped produce it to raise funds for a 3 day film festival I was the executive director of a few years ago. We had received many entries and I wanted to raise enough funds to have one more theater but we were out of money. So I wrote a short comedy that takes place in an ice cream restaurant with lots of extras. Brenton Convington was the real producer on the project who was also on the executive board for the festival. We had made it a fundraiser and charged a fee from extra to principal roles, location, and product placement. It was a lot of fun and we did it! Because of our short flick 30 or 40 more films were shown and I was proud of that. The other I’d like to mention is a feature film I wrote that is currently in pre-production. It’s called “Racetrack” which revolves around a thoroughbred race horses and the corruptness that surrounds the track from cheating jockeys to Mafia hits and stealing their piece of the pie. I had grown up around the track because my dad, at one time, owned race horses and knew a lot! Probably more than he should (ha ha). He had handwritten a story over 20 years ago using all the real dirt, no pun intended, that happens around the track. I took what he had and I wrote a screenplay. I made it more intricate and commercial but kept all the cheap tricks and crookedness that my dad had written about because those were true stories and that’s what makes this film so damn interesting. My dad is now 81 years old and fighting cancer – my goal is to get it made so he can see it on the big screen before he passes away. I want to make that happen. He’s doing better, not to end this on a depressing note! My dad is awesome and a tough old bird.
HM- Currently I am casting a SAG feature film called “Suspicion”. Funny enough it is about a retired hit man and corruptness inside the Mafia. We start shooting April 19th. We have some great talent attached I’m just not at liberty to say, at the moment.
ED- What type of projects and film genres do you hope to work with in the future?
HM-In this economy, that fact that I’m working is enough. Feature films employ a lot of people and help a lot of businesses, especially on location shooting. I work hard at bring projects and people together. In the end, it’s still about making a buck and paying the mortgage or rent. I think sometimes people forget that even though this is a crazy and fun industry to work in, it is still a business and the project has to make money. Happy investors is never a bad thing. Make them money and they will be back!
ED- Helen, it has been thrilling to talk with you and learn more about your field in the world of film production. We are sure that many of the college students that follow our magazine will learn much from your interview and we wish you much love. Please remember us as you develop new projects. Our readers will love to read more about you.